Are you guilty of making ‘bad asks’? Learn how to stop info pollution now

by | Sep 9, 2023 | Blog | 0 comments

How much information pollution are you experiencing these days? This insidious form of pollution includes information from unknown sources that’s unsolicited, excessive, and self-centered. The info is usually confusing and requests action that  feels irrelevant.

And if you’re like me, already overloaded with information, you don’t appreciate being bombarded with these “bad asks” as I call them. Who wants to spend time, energy, and brainpower going through unwanted, carelessly crafted messages?

Because of my role as a leadership coach, consultant and facilitator, I recognize that I’m an easy target from other service providers who want to pitch me their wares. Most of the time though, the only value I can extract from their messages are examples of what not to do.

What not to do? Don’t assume that others desire what you’re offering. Don’t present services that are the exact opposite of what your prospect does for a living. Don’t pitch services and products that conflict with your brand.

Yet the bad asks delivered via email and LinkedIn serve one purpose: they’re teachable moments. Specifically, they’re useful examples for the book I’m co-authoring on communicating for action at work. The bad asks provide a concrete contrast to the clear, compelling calls to action, a la excellent asks, that we authors believe leaders, project managers and others need to make.

For the book, our point of view is that communication at work means action is involved. The sender may want the receiver of the message to fulfill a request, solve a problem, contribute ideas, collaborate on a project, increase understanding, or whatever. In other words, information on its own without any resulting action adds to information pollution. Or as my co-author Sam Yankelevitch says, “Communication precedes action; that is, it seeds action.”

Look at these recent bad asks to note how the requests fall short of moving toward action.

Consider this plea to me, which is all about the sender:

  • I’d love to schedule a brief 20-minute conversation to discuss your goals and challenges and see if my coaching services could be a good fit for you. Even if you’re not interested in my program, I’d still appreciate your insights to help me improve my coaching services. (emphasis added)

And here’s the pitch from the stranger who didn’t bother checking that I’m not currently using videos nor am I marketing on Instagram, YouTube and TikTok:

  • Excuse the message out of the blue Liz, I absolutely love what you are doing at Connect Consulting Group and had to get in touch personally. We actually specialize in helping Coaches based in the USA grow their Personal Brand & Followers on Instagram, YouTube &/or TikTok by creating or repurposing their existing Content into Short Form Videos like Reels/Shorts without them having to spend time manually editing videos all by themselves. In fact, we have already helped a Successful Fitness Coach scale over 600k followers.

And this confidence-booster (not) from someone who didn’t pay attention to all my blog posts about the books I’ve read by humans who write, not release:

  • I’m a ghostwriter looking for coaches who want to release books that can transform their business. Are you available for a quick chat sometime this week?

“Bad asks” exist all over the work world. Many bosses and project managers assume that if they make a request, others will respond because of their powerful position or the appeal of their ask.

However, to turn an “ask” into an “act,” the requester – the sender of the message – needs to help the receiver successfully navigate a long and windy road.

First, when you’re the requester, you’ve got to get people’s attention, which is easier said than done.

Then you need to make sure people have the “will” (the motivation) and the “skill” (ability) to fulfill the request.

And last, but not least, you need to help individuals get over the “hill,” past all the obstacles they can face. These include other commitments and priorities, confusing directions, undefined deadlines, hard-to-use technology, and other impediments.

For many on the receiving end of a request, especially a “bad ask,” it’s often easier to take the path of least resistance. To them, this could be “just say no,” ignore the request or wait it out—especially when the hill feels more like a mountain, which is especially common with “bad asks.”

When individuals have to invest extra time and brainpower dealing with “bad asks,” they increase their “cognitive load” as the neuroscientists describe it and lose their motivation.

To avoid these situations, carefully design your “call to action” and make it as easy as possible for people to comply. For some tips, refer to 7 steps for a compelling call to action or contact me for guidance.

My ask? Take this topic seriously. If you’re a leader or project manager, make sure you’re making brain-friendly calls to action that are relevant, compelling, and easy as possible for people to do. You’ll earn more respect and credibility and get more done faster through others.

And if you’re trying to sell something on LinkedIn, please count me out, especially if you’re committed to “bad asks” or even mediocre asks.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *